ERA designs and builds a new Storage, Edit Management and MAM system for the University of Salford and provides the whole system as a service
After nine years on the MediaCityUK (MCUK) Piazza, the University of Salford (UoS) has upgraded the edit, storage and distribution systems used at its production facilities there. Among the new elements now being used by students and lecturers of the journalism and media production courses are IaaS cloud-based archiving, Tiger Spaces edit management program for creating virtual workspaces and a much improved media asset management (MAM) system with the ability to access projects remotely.
The UoS is widely recognised in both academic and professional circles as a leading educational establishment in both acoustics and media production. Until 2011 courses in television and radio were based at the university’s main campus just outside Salford city centre. When development of MCUK began at the old Salford Quays docks area in 2007, UoS was among the first institutions to consider moving to one of the new purpose-built premises.
- 1.6PB Pixit Media PixStor storage system
- Tiger Spaces edit management
- COEUS subscription cloud service
- Vidispine API based MAM system
The opportunity was for students to be part of a media city-within-a-city that would also house the production offices of BBC Children’s, BBC Learning and BBC Sport, plus studios for BBC Radios 5 Live and 6Music, together with the northern laboratories of BBC Research and Development. Other media companies have also made their homes at MCUK, whilst UoS’s facilities are in the Orange Tower, along with those of commercial broadcaster ITV.
UoS’s aim is to work with the industry to prepare its students for work in professional, real-world environments. To do this the university built two TV studios, three radio studios, video editing suites and classrooms, audio production and post-production areas and a media tech lab. The initial installation completed in time for the start of term in October 2011.
“The original was bespoke and tried to be too big and do too many things. Because of that it was never fully adopted by the university and turned into an administration system.” ~ Sean Baker, Commercial Director ERA
BUILDING A COLLABORATIVE INFRASTRUCTURE
The underlying on-site infrastructure to enable collaborative working at the facilities was installed and maintained by specialist media/IT systems integrator ERA. This included servers, switches, storage and archiving. After nine years of use, the decision was taken to ‘refresh’ the whole set-up by replacing the storage devices, edit management software and, most crucially, the existing MAM by an IaaS based solution.
Whilst most of the original installation had served the facilities well, the MAM side was seen as problematic for a number of reasons. “The original system was bespoke and tried to be too big and do too many things,” explains Sean Baker, Commercial Director of ERA. “Because of that it was never fully adopted by the university and turned into an administration system. It wasn’t being used by the students other than for submitting their papers at the end of a course.”
In addition to that, Baker comments, the infrastructure hardware was coming to the end of its operational life. Because ERA had been supporting the original installation, the company was asked to specify new technology that would completely update the set-up. “This included replacing all the storage and introducing up-to-date edit management that would work with the wide range of edit operating systems used at the university,” says Baker. “As part of that there was the opportunity to install a very much simplified MAM that would go back to the core components required.”
MEDIA ASSET MANAGEMENT CAPABILITY
Alongside the new 1.6PB Pixit Media PixStor storage system, ERA recommended the introduction of MAM capability that would allow students and lecturers to access files and projects from wherever they happen to be. This additional aspect has created a two-part – but fully integrated – infrastructure. The onpremises element comprises Pixit storage and the newly installed Tiger Spaces edit management, which is used with the editing systems. Off-premises operations are hosted by ERA and are enabled through a combination of the COEUS subscription cloud service and the Vidispine API (application programming interface)-based MAM system.
“The previous system was fully on-premises and didn’t give access to anyone off campus,” says Baker. “Now the students and lecturers can log into the MAM from home or anywhere else to upload, download, browse and view media data in proxy form. The key thing the university wanted was a working MAM system, but we also offered them remote access capability, which they were very keen to have.”
Vidispine allows users to log in from locations outside the Orange Tower. By using this system, it is possible to remotely upload data, submit assessments and send projects to lecturers for marking and review. Tiger Spaces is fully integrated with Vidispine on-premises supporting Avid Bin Locking. The system then ensures items cannot be edited once they have been submitted by the student. Tiger Spaces additionally enables students to work on data from any available workstation and then pass it between other students on the system.
James Russell, Creative Media Team Leader with responsibility for technical services and digital IT at UoS, comments that the new infrastructure had to accommodate new requirements and an expansion in operations since 2001. “There had to be provision for a larger number of clients on the system, which now stands at 260, with fast edit storage,” he explains. “The ability to upload and download remotely was a big priority for both studios and staff. It means they no longer have to travel to the university to submit or mark papers, allowing them to work from home. Tiger Spaces also gives us crucial security and GDPR compliance, which was not optional. On top of that we have compatibility with all the workstations we use, including Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro and Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve, as well as other workflows, including render farming and studio traffic. Ultimately we have an industry standard installation that gives our students a learning experience as close to what they will encounter in the real-world as possible.”
The cloud archive at ERA’s data centre provides DR backup storage as well as long term archive storage allowing the UoS to easily access the data in the future via the COEUS interface. It is connected to the UoS over a VPN (virtual private network). Work on the installation began in July 2019 and 90 percent of the installation was ready to go for the start of the university’s new term in September.
All aspects of the installed technologies are now fully functioning and integrated. ERA and the UoS are in the process of reviewing the potential for integrating the storage, edit management and MAM into other areas of the university, including the TV studios in the Orange Tower and back to the main Salford campus itself.
ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF SALFORD
The University of Salford is located in the heart of Greater Manchester. They have more than 20,000 students, 2,000 staff and a global community of over 170,000 alumni. They pioneer exceptional industry partnerships leading the way in real world experiences by preparing students for life.
They work with the industry to co-create the curriculum producing job-ready graduates primarily in health & well-being, engineering, digital and the creative sectors. They are the fastest growing university in the North West and the fifth fastest in the UK. They are continuing to invest in the campus and facilities with a £300 million masterplan that will make them fit for the future.
For further information visit www.salford.ac.uk